New York judge halts request in Avianca Airlines shareholder spat

Reuters News
Posted: May 09, 2017 5:09 PM

(Reuters) - A judge has frozen an information request by Avianca Airlines' <AVT_p.CN> No. 2 shareholder, partially derailing its move to stop negotiations by top shareholder Synergy Group with United Continental Holdings Inc.

New York Supreme Court Judge Anil C. Singh denied the discovery request tied to No. 2 shareholder Kingsland Holdings Ltd's push to have talks between Synergy and United halted until shareholders vote on whether to appoint an auditor to examine transactions between the airline and its controlling shareholder.

The decision was the latest development in a legal fight between the top two shareholders at Colombia's largest airline.

"Avianca is pleased with today’s outcome and looks forward to the Court’s consideration of its motion to dismiss Kingsland’s lawsuit," Avianca said in a statement. "Avianca believes the lawsuit is entirely baseless and without merit."

Avianca's two largest shareholders are suing one another over an attempt by Synergy to forge an alliance with United. Kingsland has called the deal "egregiously one-sided," and said it represents a bad deal for Avianca's other shareholders.

Kingsland sued Avianca and Synergy to halt the negotiations and Avianca countersued Kingsland, seeking to dismiss its lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court in late February.

The cases will not move forward with an exchange of evidence until the court rules on Avianca's motion to dismiss Kingsland's lawsuit.

Synergy is controlled by investor German Efromovich, who along with Avianca is being sued by Kingsland for allegedly negotiating an $800 million loan and strategic alliance behind the backs of other shareholders.

Synergy holds 78 percent of Avianca voting shares. Kingsland holds about 22 percent of Avianca's voting shares and 14 percent of total shares.

A Kingsland representative said the judge's decision to stay its discovery request did not address the merits of its lawsuit. However, the representative said Kingsland was pleased it had exposed talks between United, Synergy and Efromovich, "which will be the subject of scrutiny by the court and the public if a definitive agreement is announced."

(Reporting by Dion Rabouin; Editing by Andrew Hay)